Volunteer for Wildlife
I enjoyed ranger days the most. On these days you were paired with a ranger and got to do everything they did. This included feeding, cleaning, and in some cases even treating the animals. There were so many animals at the park that it was so much to see every day. My favorite part was getting to know each animal and their story. Every animal at the park has a name and is looked after carefully. It was great because you weren’t just standing behind a fence looking at the animal you were in the enclosure handling and helping.
The first three days of the program took place in Sydney, as our coordinator showed the volunteers around Sydney and filled us in on the history and customs in Australia. Along our tour we visited the Sydney Opera House, Botanical Gardens, a couple different museums and took a ferry ride to Darling Harbour.
Feeding the pandas was an unforgettable experience. The pandas would rush to the entrance of the cage and lumber up to the front. My favorite panda, Susan, would hold a bar for support as she ate. They were so receptive and excited to get their special panda bread and carrots, relishing every bite.
After becoming acquainted with our panda keeper and pandas, we started our first job. It was necessary to clean the cage, removing the bamboo leaves and other garbage. After that, we started to clean their enclosures... In addition, we feed the pandas twice a day with carrot and special bread (named ”panda cake”), and sometimes apples.
My favorite survey was definitely the turtle surveys. I am currently going to school for Marine Biology so it was right up my ally! We would go to the different beaches on the island and look for fresh turtle tracks and crawls, as well as excavate turtle nests that had already hatched! We even came across a few nests that were emerging, as we were there which was incredible! They were literally bubbling up from the sand and the hatchlings of course crawled straight into the water!
Within minutes the volunteers were buzzing about. A nearby restaurant reported that a nest was hatching in the middle of their dining tables! We grabbed some supplies and headed down the beach. Up ahead we saw a lot of commotion. We joined the crowd just in time to see tiny turtles scrambling in every direction and bystanders grabbing them up and ushering them to the Sea. We got to work right away...
It was such a rewarding project to be involved in, as at the end of each day, I could see the nests that I had protected, and know that I had done my part towards saving the turtles, and saving the planet. One of the staff members who was supervising us said, “the best feeling on earth is saving a life that can never repay you”. Helping to save those turtles made me see the truth behind these words.
Everything is really well organized and straightforward. There are three shifts. Two at night and one in the morning and obviously, you will never get more than one shift per day. The night shifts involve walking along the beach looking for turtles and waiting for them to nest. If they nest you get to watch them lay eggs and help measure and tag them. It’s honestly an amazing experience because it’s something so different and unique. The morning patrols consist of writing down all the turtle tracks and finding nests to help secure them.